Body Dysmorphic Disorder

Symptoms | Causes | Diagnostic Criteria | Treatments

Body dysmorphic disorder is characterized by having excessive worry thoughts and anxiety about one or more perceived flaws in one’s physical appearance. Oftentimes, these “flaws” are completely fictitious and are simply the result of delusional hyperbole.

Such perceptions of one’s flaws include the belief that they look ugly, unattractive, abnormal, or even deformed. Essentially, any body area can be the focus of concern for someone with this disorder, such as having contempt for one’s own eyes, teeth, weight, stomach, breasts, legs, face size, lips chin, eyebrows, or genitals).

Muscle dysmorphia, according to the DSM-5, is a form of body dysmorphic disorder occurring almost exclusively in males, consists of preoccupation with the idea that one’s body is too small or insufficiently lean or muscular.


The prevalence of this mental disorder among U.S. adults is 2.4%. Excluding the states, the worldwide prevalence is approx. 1.7%-1.8%. Dermatology patients make up 9%-15%, cosmetic surgery patients make up 7%-8%, international cosmetic surgery patients make up 3%-16%, adult orthodontia patients make up about 8%, and oral or maxillofacial surgery patients make up about 10%, according to the DSM-5.

Symptoms of Body Dysmorphic Disorder

  • Overly concerned with one’s physical appearance
  • Excessive preoccupation with a perceived flaw in appearance
  • Feelings of being defected, ugly, or deformed
  • Belief that others are mocking the perceived flaw
  • Seeking cosmetic procedures with little satisfaction
  • Excessively checking one’s appearance in the mirror
  • Excessive grooming or skin picking
  • Attempting to hide perceived flaws with styling, makeup or clothes
  • Frequently seeking reassurance about one’s appearance from others
  • Having perfectionist tendencies
  • Avoiding social situations
  • Constantly comparing one’s appearance with others

Causes of Body Dysmorphic Disorder

Temperamental, environmental, genetic & physiological factors are all likely to play key roles in the development of body dysmorphic disorder. Individuals with a family history of this mental illness may be at risk for developing it themselves. In fact, researchers have found that several parts of the brain, as well as biological processes, play a key role in fear and anxiety.

According to Mayo Clinic, some factors that may increase one’s risk for developing this mental illness are having a family history of body dysmorphic disorder or obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), having negative life experiences, such as childhood teasing, neglect or abuse, as well as dealing with societal pressure to appear a certain way.

The mean age at disorder onset is 16-17 years, the median age at onset is 15 years, and the most common age at onset is 12-13 years, according to the DSM-5.


Diagnostic Criteria

To get properly diagnosed with body dysmorphic disorder, you will need to go through a psychiatric evaluation with your psychiatrist, psychologist, or other accredited mental health professional who can legally diagnose mental disorders. Psychiatric evaluations typically entail getting asked questions about your symptoms, such as how intense and frequent you experience them.

Some of the diagnostic criteria for this mental illness, according to the DSM-5, is having a preoccupation with one or more perceived defects or flaws in physical appearance that are not observable or appear slight to others, as well as at some point during the course of the disorder, the individual has performed repetitive behaviors, such as mirror checking, excessive grooming, skin picking, reassurance seeking, as well as performing mental acts, such as comparing his or her appearance with that of others.


Treatments of Body Dysmorphic Disorder

Treatments for this mental illness often include some form of talk therapy, as well as psychiatric medications. However, in some instances, only talk therapy will be necessary. A common form of therapy for this condition is cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). One of the main functions of CBT is to challenge automatic negative thoughts about one’s body image and learning more-flexible ways of thinking, according to the American Psychological Association.

Psychiatric medication may also be useful for someone suffering from this disorder. Medications used to treat depression or OCD may be prescribed for someone with this mental disorder. However, you should always talk to your doctor first before taking any medication to ensure safety and effectiveness.

If you think you may be suffering from some of the symptoms of this condition, then you may benefit from therapy. Clinics such as Psymplicity are there to help you so take a look and see what they can offer. Feel free to reach out to your doctor or local mental health clinic to see what your available options are and to see if there is any sort of discount or promo code available to help you with the costs of treatment, as well as if your health insurance will cover treatment costs.


  • Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5)

Affordable Therapy from your couch. 100% Online.

Get the help you deserve & try online therapy through the world's largest mental health platform - BetterHelp.

Click below to save 10% on treatment.

As a BetterHelp affiliate, we may receive compensation from BetterHelp if you purchase products or services through the links provided.